RELATIONSHIPS Modern dating's different
Today's dating style comes in many forms.
By JOSH MOUND
"Going steady" is gone. That's not to say that today's teens and young adults don't date, but they would never use such an antiquated term to describe their coupling. Dating today is far too complex and varied for one form.
With increased college enrollment and a crowded job market, many young people are opting to delay traditional adult responsibilities. U.S. Bureau of the Census statistics show that over the past two decades, median age at first marriage has climbed by over two years for men and over three years for women. With starting a family now in the distant future for many, fewer young adults are seeking to be entangled in a steady relationship.
"No one is really committing to relationships because of time," Alvin Little, 21, said, also noting the monetary cost of dating. "It takes away from other things."
For many, traditional coupling has been replaced by a multitude of arrangements, each denoting different associations and levels of commitment. Dating within a group of friends, whereby the group's members often pair off in semi-serious unions, is one such form.
"If you're all friends and you start hanging out and you get interested in somebody else in the group, you'll start seeing each other and still hang out as a group at the same time," Meghan Fleming, 21, said.
Such an arrangement allows the couple to spend time both with friends and each other, and it allows the couple to keep the relationship at least somewhat casual. However, dating within a group does have its own complications. When a romantic relationship within the group ends, sometimes the social circle itself is damaged.
"Some people are too immature to handle that you are friends with their exes," Fleming said.
Another alternative is the infamous "friends with benefits" arrangement, which allows for a physical relationship between two otherwise unromantic friends. However, opinion often seems to be split along gender lines regarding the upside of such an arrangement.
"Friends with benefits is a nice idea," Ramon Story, 18, said with a smirk. "I'm all for friends with benefits."
Yet, Little acknowledges that many women find it "degrading," an assertion Angie Morris confirms.
"I think it [friends with benefits] is stupid and horrible and ends friendships," Morris, 19, said.
With the popularity of casual, nontraditional relationships, pundits and proselytizers have bemoaned the fact that college-age Americans are no longer as eager to involve themselves in serious relationships.
Specifically, nonserious coupling with a sexual component and casual "hookups" have been seen by many as a sign of moral breakdown.
While some of today's relationships may seem foreign and even shocking to older generations, the world of rampant promiscuity and disdain for commitment portrayed by many expos & eacute;s often ignores the less salacious aspects of modern dating.
While few are anxious to think about marriage, many young men and women are still looking to "go steady."
Both Morris and Fleming lament casual dating.
"I'm more for the one-on-one dating," Morris said. "It's how I've always thought it would be since I was young. I think I'm very old-fashioned."
"I'm one of those kind of girls that want a relationship," Fleming said.
Perhaps the lack of commitment is not quite as rampant as some critics suggest. It is also possible that, faced with the aforementioned time crunch and the added downside of potential heartbreak, some young adults have opted out of relationships -- committed or casual -- altogether.
Heather Strange, 24, offered advice to those considering any type of relationship.
"Don't get into one," she said. "Get a puppy or go on vacation."